Friday, January 22, 2021

COVID-19 Cases Are Spiking, Now is Not the Time to Let Down Our Guard

Stephen Vance, Editor

With COVID-19 cases spiking across the province, it would appear that the long predicted second wave is now upon us. Here in Meaford, where we have seen very few cases since the start of the pandemic, we saw the number of confirmed cases jump from seven to eleven in less than a week.

While it took six months for Meaford to accumulate seven confirmed cases, four in less than a week was cause for concern for some on social media. I think we are right to be concerned, but we also need to keep things in perspective – even with these new cases, Meaford, when compared to other areas, has thankfully experienced very little in the way of COVID-19 infections.

That this second wave of the virus coincides with our traditional flu season will add some extra fear and confusion, and I think we all need to brace ourselves for some rough weeks ahead. Hospitals across the province are already sounding the alarm bells, expressing fear that the second wave could strain the system well beyond what the first wave of the virus did.

We in Meaford have taken a certain amount of pride in our low COVID-19 numbers: we have worn it like a badge of honour and a sign that this community has embraced social distancing and mask-wearing protocols, and many of us have considered ourselves fortunate to live in a rural area where we are naturally more distanced from others than are city dwellers. Virtually everywhere in the province however is currently seeing a spike in positive tests, and the four new cases we have seen in Meaford over the past week could very well be just the tip of the iceberg. So now more than ever we need to remain vigilant in our adherence to the orders and guidance of our local health unit.

On Monday of this week Ontario saw some 700 positive tests, the most in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. We are told that the majority of the new positive tests are folks under the age of 40, perhaps not surprising given that with all areas of the province having reached Stage 3 of the economic reopening strategy, many are back in the workplace, the kids are back in school, and with the virus still in our midst, the numbers were bound to spike.

How long this second wave will last is a question on the minds of many. One of the biggest frustrations with this entire pandemic has been uncertainty. This is a new experience for us all, and more is being learned about this new virus every day, but there is so much that we still do not know, including the potential impact of this second wave.

This week I watched our prime minister tell us that while we won’t be gathering as we traditionally have for Thanksgiving this year, “we still have a shot at Christmas”. I like the positive thinking, but I have my doubts. We have already seen the maximum number of persons allowed at private gatherings scaled back here in Ontario, and I would not be surprised to see us work our way backward through the re-opening stages. And I would also not be surprised to see us in another lock-down situation in the next couple of months. In a year that has seen cancellation after cancellation of events big and small, this virus might very well cancel Christmas as we know it, and we might as well prepare ourselves mentally for that possibility now.

Now is certainly not the time to let down our guard. I know that there are some who push back against the mask mandate, and there are even some who are wrapped up in conspiracies about this virus. Nobody likes wearing masks. They are uncomfortable, they fog up your glasses, and they are an inconvenience to be sure, but it seems like a small sacrifice given our current reality. When combined with social distancing measures, it seems our best defence against this invisible virus, and until there is a better alternative we would all be wise to keep our distance from others, and wear a mask when we are indoors.

I don’t think we should allow ourselves to be filled with fear and anxiety due to this virus however. While the virus can kill, the percentage of those who contract the virus who ultimately die is incredibly low. I think it is important to keep that reality in mind, if only to maintain our sanity, as it can be easy to allow the social media hysteria surrounding this pandemic to heighten our fears beyond what the situation deserves.

So brace yourselves for a chaotic and uncertain autumn, and likely winter. Keep your distance, wear a mask, and venture out in public only as needed until this virus can be contained.

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